Bundaberg fashion designer and artist Julie Appo is living proof that it’s never too late to pursue a dream.
Julie has come out of retirement to open her own boutique women’s fashion store, The Beach Dresser, at Bargara and has big plans for the little outlet’s future.
The proud Gooreng Gooreng woman is also working with neighbouring outlet owner, Jassy Watson of Earth Circle Studios and Gallery Café, to create an artistic hub for Bargara with plans to host special themed events throughout 2021 and beyond.
“A lot of people who come here are in the art movement in Bundaberg so it’s a nice, creative hub for people to catch up and have a coffee,” she said.
“Every three months or so we’ll come up with a theme and do something different.
“It’s nice to support each other because we’re both creative, and both artists, so it’s nice to bounce ideas off each other.”
Julie said her idea for the store came after noticing the vacant shopfront as a regular customer at Earth Circle.
“I thought I’ll follow one of my dreams and open a little store here and see how it goes, and it’s been going very well,” she said.
“Ever since I was very young, I’ve been interested in sewing and fashion and I’ve always been artistic as well.
“I think what really got me started in fashion was that my mum had a love for fashion and sewing, so that sort of started me.”
Julie said her Indigenous heritage not only influenced her designs, it also encouraged her to use her store to create opportunities for young Indigenous residents.
“I’m just following one of my little dreams, but one of the reasons I started this was because there’s not many young Indigenous people in fashion or in the retail industry itself.
“I thought things would’ve changed by now, but I said ‘well, I’ll do this’ and see if I can be a role model, I suppose, to encourage them to train for or enter the retail business.”
Julie said she had already sought professional advice on how to implement a trainee program for young Indigenous workers and looked forward to being able to offer such opportunities to the community.
Many of Julie’s designs are inspired by Burnett River rock imagery, an interest which stretches back to her days in designer college.
Julie’s art degree thesis explored the Burnett River rock imagery, ancient rock engravings nearby the river that have since been submerged following the altering of the river’s course and flow began in the 1960s.
“For my honours, I decided to research what happened there and where some (examples) could be,” she said.
“There are some lying around, and I’ve got photos of that.”
Julie said her involvement in Native Title negotiations, as a Gooreng Gooreng elder, had also influenced her work, combining with the Burnett River rock imagery to inform her work.
Julie said she had sought out Australian companies to print her designs wherever possible and was keen to showcase the work of local artists at The Beach Dresser to help them establish a market for their products.
Following the success of its initial opening, Julie and Jassy are hosting a Christmas event this Saturday from 10am to 1pm.
The Beach Dresser is located at 5 Whalley Street, Bargara, and its regular trading hours are from 9am to 2pm, Wednesday to Saturday.